Ecosystems Approach to Make Agriculture More Efficient, More Sustainable, and to Create More Intelligent Markets
“The future of food security on the current trajectory is a road to nowhere, and to repeat the statistics that we need to grow 50-70% more food without answering the questions, on what land, with which water and with what kind of seed diversity, is a discussion that merits much greater attention,” said Achim Steiner, the United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director recently in Brussels.
He stressed that an ‘Ecosystems approach’ to water and food security may allow us, as a global economy, to produce and manage food without depleting the very resources that we rely upon for food production.
In earlier Voices & Views on capacity4dev.eu this year, agriculture specialists have shared their views on how our planet will be able to support food production for the projected population of 9 billion people by 2050. European Commission policy currently places emphasis on sustainable agriculture, and food and nutrition security, drawing in resilience measures. Agro ecology and conservation agriculture is part of this.
Yet, in the scramble to be part of the global agricultural economy, the common-sense underlying principle of working with and protecting natures assets seems widely to have been forgotten. In the last 150 years, farming has, to a large extent, become an extractive industry.
“It is not operating as a sustainable farming operation – we’re seeing desalination becoming a problem as a result of irrigated agriculture. We’re seeing soil fertility going down, we are seeing soil degradation and desertification,“ said Achim Steiner, who was recently in Brussels to meet with Commissioners regarding sustainability issues. “We are actually contracting the amount of arable land available to grow food at a time when we are supposed to be thinking about how 9 billion people will be fed.”
UNEP strongly advocates an ‘Ecosystems approach’ for future agricultural strategy, based on the notion of working with nature rather than trying to replace it in agriculture with modern chemistry. Value for the environment is proposed not only in production, but throughout agricultural extension services by, for example, facilitating access high value markets for organic farmers. It also involves a better deal for consumers through the promotion of transparency in certification and labelling and, over time, lower prices for organic produce.